Falls from grain bunker / stockpiles

This safety alert highlights the hazards associated with working on and around stockpiles of grain, silage or other agricultural matter.

Published: 01 May 2011


There have been several incidents where workers have been injured while working on tarpaulin covered stockpiles of grain and silage during high winds.

Recently, a grain storage worker was fatally injured in a fall while securing a tarpaulin cover on an eight-metre high bunker.

As well as covering/removing tarpaulins, there are a variety of other tasks done on top of grain and silage bunkers/stacks including tarpaulin covering/removing, sewing, patching and taking tie-down straps from one side to the other.

Windy and wet conditions can create hazards for workers. Powerful winds may lift a tarpaulin or create a ‘sail’ effect.

Additionally, bunkers are often two metres or more in height and workers may be at risk of falling, particularly where the tarpaulin surface becomes slippery or the stored grain has a high angle of repose.

Control measures

Grain and silage bunker operators should consider the following risk control measures when working on and around bunkers:

  • Use a fixed platform (ie gantry) or an elevated work platform to access grain bunkers, silage stockpiles etc, where practicable. Where possible, workers should avoid accessing the tops of bunkers/stockpiles.
  • Use powered plant for tarpaulin placement and removal.
  • Do a risk assessment or job safety analysis which is used when developing procedures and before workers access grain bunkers/ stockpiles.
  • Monitor weather conditions at the workplace. Work procedures should specify the conditions that will prevent working on the bunker (ie maximum wind speed and wind direction).
  • Train, instruct and supervise workers working on and around bunkers.

Australian standards

  • AS 1170.2 – 2002: Structural design actions - Wind actions
  • AS/NZS ISO 31000 - 2009: Risk management - Principles and guidelines